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Dealing With Lust - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Matthew 5:27-30

  • 2012-06-17 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Sermons


Well today, as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table, I want us to complete the study of the passage we've been looking at together in Matthew chapter 5. It is the second of six illustrations Jesus gives describing how the righteousness of His disciples surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. It surpasses it in that it goes beyond mere external conformity. It goes beyond simply trying to modify one's behavior. The obedience of Jesus' true disciples is obedience from the heart – that is, it is for God's glory and for the bringing of praise to God – and it is in the heart. It is not mere obedience in terms of modifying what happens outside, but in Jesus' true disciples there is a desire to be inside, in the heart, what Jesus prescribes for us to be. You see this in this second illustration in Matthew 5:27

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it's better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut if off and throw it from you; for it's better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Jesus here in this passage tells us that lust in the heart carries the moral guilt of an act of sexual sin outside of marriage and it renders us guilty of violating the seventh commandment. And therefore, it makes us deserving of God's eternal wrath. Jesus' point here is that, as His followers, we must not tolerate in any way either the acts of sexual sin or the thought in the heart, the lust in the heart, from which that act springs. We must be willing to take even extreme measures to cut the sin of lust out of our lives.

Now we've already looked at much of these two verses. Let me just remind you. We looked at the law against adultery recited in verse 27 as He simply recounts the 7th commandment from Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5. We looked at the law against adultery misinterpreted, that is, what the scribes and Pharisees had done. They had made it mere external conformity. As long as you didn't commit an act of sexual sin, they said you had kept God's law. Last week, just to review with you, we looked at the law against adultery explained in verse 28. Notice verse 28 says: "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." The specific sin that Jesus condemns here is really twofold. It is tolerating any kind of lust in our own hearts and we defined that a bit. What is that? It is looking at a person, either in person or in some medium like the internet etc. – looking at a person other than your spouse in order either to excite or to fulfill sexual desire. The other part of that is creating or recalling sexual images in your mind or imagination. Not only is it looking with your eyes, your physical eyes, but it's looking with your mind's eye at something that's designed to excite or fulfill sexual desire. But not only is lust in our own hearts condemned but, in addition to that, we discovered that doing anything that excites that lust in others, intentionally or negligently doing things that cause others to look on us with sexual desire. That's the specific sin Jesus condemns. The second half of the verse gives us the legal verdict that Jesus pronounces. He says if that happens, if those sins occur, if a person looks at a woman with lust for her he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. According to Jesus, coveting another person sexually renders you guilty before God of adultery.

Now that brings us to verses 29 and 30 where I want us to look today and to what we could call the law against adultery applied. Look at verses 29 and 30 again:

"If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it's better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut if off and throw it from you; for it's better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Now Jesus used almost identical language to this on a different occasion about a year after the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 18, and it's also recorded in Mark 9. But in Matthew 18 and in Mark 9, the reference is not specifically to sexual sin, but rather to any kind of sin that causes us to violate God's will, anything that causes us to stumble into any kind of sin. Here in Matthew 5, however, Jesus uses this language specifically to teach us how to respond to the temptation to sexual lust. Now sadly, there have been some in the history of the church that have misunderstood our Lord's words here. There have been some who have thought that Jesus meant that we should literally maim our physical bodies. The most famous example was Origen of Alexandria who lived and ministered in the third century. He had himself emasculated because he thought that that would enable him to overcome his sexual temptations. But of course, the plan wasn't successful because the members of our body don't act independently. They do what our wills, what our minds, what our desires tell them to do.

But I think it's legitimate for us to at least ask the question. How do we know that Origen and a few others like him in the history of the church were wrong? How do we know that Jesus didn't mean that we should literally cut off our hands, pluck out our eyes or in some other way physically maim ourselves? Well, there really is a long list of reasons that we could do that, but let me just give you a couple. Several reasons stand out. First of all, all of the apostles were guilty of lust. If we've interpreted this passage correctly and we have, then none of them were innocent of this sin. And yet, none of them mutilated their bodies. The most famous example of course would be the apostle Paul who, in Romans 7, said that before Christ he struggled seriously with coveting. The Greek word is 'epithumia'. It's the same word as here. It's lust. It's a translation I should say of the tenth commandment. And Paul says, in his pre-conversion state, that was a struggle for him. And we can only assume that he carried the temptation to that sin into his converted life as well. And yet, Paul did not harm his body. There's no record of that.

Another reason that we know this can't be true that we're to physically harm ourselves, is our eyes and our hands don't cause us to sin. What is the real problem? Where does the real problem with sin start? In the heart. In Matthew 15:19, the Lord says it's out of the heart that the sins that are a part of our lives flow. If you pluck out only one eye, it's not going to keep you from the sin of lust because you still have the other eye. And if you pluck out both eyes, you can still conjure up sinful images in the heart. That's why in Romans 7 Paul says the real problem is the sin that dwells in us.

There's a third reason that that's not what our Lord means here and that is the nearly universal testimony of the church. For two thousand years, the church has understood Jesus to be making a spiritual point and not a physical one. In fact, shortly after Origen of Alexandria mutilated his body, the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. declared that Scripture absolutely forbids the practice of harming your body. That is not what our Lord meant.

But let's let Paul speak to this issue. The final reason is because the Scripture makes it very clear this isn't the way to solve fleshly indulgence. Look at Colossians 2:20. Paul says,

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, (if you're new in Christ and you've died to those things which are part of the world's wisdom) why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees (to human regulations, to legalistic formulas) such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!'"

This is asceticism. It was a part of the doctrine of the false teachers in Colossae. They said if you harm the body, restrict the body, make it uncomfortable, that's good for your spiritual growth and development. Verse 22:

This is in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men. These are matters (verse 23) which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but (watch this, those things) are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Paul says, Listen. Don't misunderstand our Lord's words. Severe treatment of your body is not valuable in combating fleshly indulgence.

So if Jesus didn't mean that we should physically harm ourselves, what did He mean? How should we interpret His words? Well, in Matthew 18, the other passage when our Lord uses these same expressions, He gives us a little more insight. Let's look there. Matthew 18. He gives us really the key to interpret Matthew 5 here in Matthew 18. This is a little less than a year later after the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord's earliest teachings about the church. And in this chapter in verse 7, He says: "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" Obviously, the reference here to stumbling blocks is a very picturesque description of someone walking along a path and someone or something has been laid in his path to trip him up, to make him stumble and fall, metaphorically here, into sin. Now with that, notice verse 8. Here our Lord uses the same basic language in a more generic way that He uses in Matthew 5.

"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it's better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. For it's better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell."

Now notice here our Lord is clearer even in how He says it that lets us know how to interpret Matthew 5. The eye and the hand and the foot all represent those things in our lives which are stumbling blocks, those things over which we can fall into sin, those things that serve as a source of temptation. But rather than characterize specific things in our external lives, He likens it to our hand or our eye or our foot being the source of that stumbling.

Now with that in mind, go back to Matthew 5. Here our Lord gets more specific. He says consider your right hand and your right eye. Now why does He do that? Well, they tell us that only about ten percent or less of the population are truly left-handed. (I feel sorry for the rest of you. That means there are only ten percent of us that are in our right minds.) But for the rest of you, the most people in the world are right-handed. That means their right eye and their right hand are dominant and therefore most used and most important to them. A person who's right-handed, they can better afford to break their left hand because then they can still do so much of what they do with the right hand because it's the dominant one. And the same thing is true with the right eye. And so it's that which is most valuable, that which is most important. That's the emphasis here.

Now as we saw in Matthew 18, Jesus adds the foot. Why does He give these pictures? Well, the eye has to do with what we see, the hand with what we do, and the foot with where we go. Now put that together. What is Jesus saying? He is not saying to actually cut these members from your body. He's saying act as if you had. Don't let your foot go where it wants to go. Act as if you had severed it and don't allow yourself to go where you want to go. Don't let your hand do what it wants to do. Don't let your eyes look where they want to look. Isn't that what Job said in Job 31:1? He said, "I have made a covenant (I have made a legally binding promise) with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?" That is, how could I look with lust on a woman? He goes on to say in Job 31:9 that: "If my heart has been enticed by a woman, or I have lurked at my neighbor's doorway," that is, to catch a glimpse of something that would be sexually exciting, he says then let God deal with me on that basis. But the emphasis there is I haven't done that, I don't do that. So He's saying don't allow the members of your body to do what they want to do. Treat them as if you had excised them, as if they were no longer there.

Now what does this look like? Listen to John Stott. And I appreciate so much of what John Stott has written and now I feel like I always have to give a little caveat. He has become an annihilationist which I radically, emphatically disagree with, but much of what he's written has been very helpful. This is what he writes: "What does this involve in practice? Let me elaborate and so interpret Jesus' teaching. If your eye causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes, (that is, objects you see) then pluck out your eyes; that is, don't look. Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away and were now blind and so could not see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin because temptation comes to you through your hands (that is, things you do) or your feet, (places you visit) then cut them off; that is, don't do it, don't go. Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet and had flung them away and were now crippled and so could not do the things or visit the places which previously caused you to sin." He goes on to say that is the meaning of mortification. We'll come back to that word in just a moment. So in other words, our Lord is saying in Matthew 5, if the things which are most valuable to you cause you to sin, then be willing to get rid of them. Whatever outside of your heart becomes an external cause or source of temptation to lust in your life, cut it off! Pluck it out! Be willing to radically destroy the cause or the source of your temptation to sin.

A couple of years ago, I came across the remarkable story of a man named Aron Ralston. Aron Ralston wrote a book entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Now I haven't read the book so I'm not recommending it to you. I don't know whether it's good or not, but I was struck with part of his story that I read. It says: "It started out on a simple hike in the Utah canyon lands on a warm Saturday afternoon. It was 2:41 p.m. Eight miles from his truck in a deep and narrow slot canyon, Aron was climbing down off a wedged boulder when the rock suddenly came loose. Before he could get out of the way, the falling stone pinned his right hand and wrist against the canyon wall. And so began six days of hell for Aron Ralston. With scant water and little food, no jacket for the painfully cold nights and the terrible knowledge that he'd told no one where he was headed, he found himself facing a lingering death trapped by an eight hundred pound boulder one hundred feet down in the bottom of a canyon. As he eliminated his escape options one by one through the days, Aron faced the full horror of his predicament. By the time any possible search and rescue effort would begin, he'd most probably have died of dehydration, if a flash flood didn't drown him before that occurred. Using the video camera from his pack, Aron began recording his grateful goodbyes to his family and friends all over the country - thinking back over a life filled with adventure and documenting a last will and testament with the hope that someone someday would find it. The knowledge of his family's love kept Aron Ralston alive. And then, as if a divine inspiration on Thursday morning, the riddle of the boulder was solved. Aron then (the story goes on to say) committed the most extreme act imaginable to save himself. He slowly amputated his right arm until he was free."

Do you understand that Jesus is saying that we must be willing to do just that – not physically, but spiritually – for the safety of our souls? We must be willing to be radical in excising those things that cause us to sin with the sin of lust. Let me ask you. What are you prepared to do to defeat the sin of lust in your life? What are you prepared to do if it's necessary? Are you prepared to get rid of the premium television channels you have? Are you prepared, if necessary, to get rid of your cable, even your television? Are you willing, if necessary, to get some kind of software that monitors and reports on your internet activity? Are you willing, if nothing else works, to get rid of the internet altogether? Are you willing to get rid of your smartphone and get a dumb phone? If you don't see progress in your fight against lust, are you willing to get rid of your computer, your laptop, your iPad? Or maybe travelling alone as a businessman or as a woman who travels on business, maybe that's the problem and where the source of temptation comes. Are you willing to stop that travel? Are you willing, if necessary, to change jobs, even careers? Maybe your temptation to lust comes in a totally different way. What are you prepared to do to cut the sin of lust out of your life if necessary?

You say, Wait a minute, Tom. You don't understand. Those things are important. And, you know, I've grown up in the world where all those things exist and I've grown dependent on them. You can't survive in today's world without those things. Are any of those things more important to your survival on this planet than your right eye and your right hand? Why is this so important? Because Christ makes it very clear that lust is a deadly enemy of the soul. Look at the second half of both verses 29 and 30 where He essentially says the same thing: "for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Verse 30: "for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell." Just one slight variation there – in one case, the person is seen as entering hell because of the choices they've made. In the other case, they're seen as being thrown by God Himself into hell. Jesus says it is better – that is, it is more to your advantage, if it were necessary – for one of your physical members to be destroyed so that your whole body isn't thrown into (and He uses that word 'Gehenna') that literal valley outside the city of Jerusalem that was a garbage dump in the first century, constantly aflame with fire, the trash burning that became a graphic picture of the place of eternal punishment. Our Lord used it often for that purpose.

Do you understand what Jesus is saying? Lust! Lust that is fed and tolerated and coddled and played with and unrepented of, will by itself be enough to cause God to cast you into hell. Jesus' point is that the person who truly belongs to His spiritual kingdom is committed not only to purity in body, not only to not committing adultery, but to purity of mind. Remember the beatitude: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." The true believer understands how serious lust is and will take whatever steps are necessary to cut it out of his life.

What our Lord is encouraging here in Matthew 5 is what theologians call the mortification of sin. Mortification is a part of our sanctification. It is the process by which we gradually put sin to death in our lives. Several New Testament passages speak of this mortification. I want to step back here because perhaps your struggle isn't lust. Maybe there's some other sin that captivates you, that controls you, that is dominant in your life. The same principles hold true. Let's look at a couple of passages that talk about this mortification, exactly what our Lord's encouraging us to do here in Matthew 5.

Turn with me to Romans 8:13. Let's start at verse 12. Paul has been contrasting those who are in the flesh (that is, those who are unregenerate) with those who are now in the Spirit, have been given new life. Those who are in the flesh (that is, unregenerate) versus those who have the flesh still in them. (that's Christians) You see the difference? The Christian is a new person in Jesus Christ, but he still has, resident within him, a part of his fallenness that has been unredeemed. The Bible calls that his flesh. It finds its beachhead in the body because our bodies are still fallen, but it's not strictly the body. And so he talks about the redeemed person being a new person (that's Romans 6) being a completely new creation, but having the flesh (that's Romans 7) The battle between the new person that I am and that part of me that remains unredeemed, my flesh. So what am I supposed to do about that? Romans 8:12

So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh - for if you are living according to the flesh, (that is, if you are giving in and giving up to your flesh and it is driving your decisions, it's controlling your life--your life is characterized by giving in to your flesh, then, Paul says) you must die;

That is, you must experience eternal death. He's saying you're not a Christian. If you're the kind of person who just gives in to your flesh and lets it reign and you just don't care, then you're not a Christian.

"But (verse 13) if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." That is, you're one who has truly experienced eternal life and will experience eternal life. Now what I love about this verse is it balances two things that Christians tend to confuse. Most Christians tend to fall off on one or the other side. Either they approach mortification and sanctification by saying I just need to let go and let God. I can't do this. This needs to be God's work and so I'm just going to let God do it. I'm waiting for Him to zap me with some spiritual, you know, beam from heaven. On the other end of the spectrum is the eager beaver who says Oh yeah. I need to be putting to death the deeds of the body. I can do this. Just let me at it. I will deal with this. I have enough will power. I have enough resolve. I can accomplish this. But notice how both of those are destroyed by this verse: "(we are) you are (Paul says) to put to death the deeds of the body." That is a responsibility every single one of us bears. We are not to be tolerating sin in our lives. We're to be putting it to death. I love the title from John Macarthur's book in which he's dealing with this issue and he calls it Hacking Agag to Pieces –that image from the Old Testament of the death of Agag. That's what we're to do with the sin in our lives. We're to hack it to pieces. We're not to let it stand in our lives. But we can't do that in our own strength. That's why he begins the second half of verse 13 by saying: "if (what?) by the Spirit…" It's the balance. You can't change yourself. Only the Spirit can change you. But the Spirit is not going to change you if you aren't endeavoring to obey the Scripture by putting to death the deeds of the body.

We see this same thing in Colossians 3. In fact, in Colossians 3, Paul specifically deals with this issue of sexual sin and mortification. Colossians 3:5. "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead..." Now I love the NAS, but I don't like this translation. Look at the marginal reference. You see there's a 1 there that, if you have the NAS, points you out to the margin. And literally, this is what the Greek text says: put to death the members which are upon the earth. This is the same idea – be putting to death the remnants of the sin that's in you because of the flesh. Don't tolerate it. And specifically sexual sin. Immorality – that's all sexual activity outside of marriage. And purity – that has to do with the heart from which acts spring. Passion and evil desire – also dealing with lust and the physical side of that lust. And greed – probably used here in the context of sexual covetousness, lust which amounts to idolatry. He says I want you to put those things to death in your life. Don't tolerate them. "For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience…" What I want you to see is the balance in these verses. You and I must expend the maximum effort to obey the commands of Scripture. God will not do for us what He commanded us to do. Let me put it to you more bluntly. God is not going to help you overcome the sin of lust in your life if you continue making provision for that sin--if you refuse to do what He commands you in Matthew 5, and that is be willing to radically cut out of your life anything that's a stumbling block into that sin, that leads you in to the sin of lust. You must be willing to get radical in dealing with the sin of lust.

Now I know there are many in our church family who seriously struggle with the sin of lust because this has become accepted in the culture. It's widespread, it's become a matter of joking even on reputable news programs and so forth. And so it's a huge issue. Let me recommend some other resources for you that can be helpful as well. I would recommend to you a more readable version of the work of John Owen, the great English Puritan, on Sin and Temptation. I read a portion of that this last week and it was very helpful – edited by Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor. Ed Welch on Addictions. This is a more general book on any life-dominating sin whether it's drugs or alcohol or sexual sin as well. (A Banquet in the Grave it's subtitled) by Ed Welch. And then specifically on internet pornography – I've not read this book myself--I've read great recommendations on it - Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn by Tim Challies. I would recommend, if you struggle with this issue - get one or all of these books. Continue battling that sin in your life. And the first way you start battling is by informing your mind with the truth of God and the truth of His Word.

Now as you seek to do what our Lord commands here in Matthew 5, as you seek to put sin to death by taking measures in your life, there are several crucial points I want you to keep in mind. Just jot these down and remember them.

#1 Don't fight the war on only one front. Don't marshal all your resources to fight this one sin. Don't spend all your energy fighting the sin of lust. Focus instead on an entire life of obedience. John Owen, in his book Sin and Temptation makes the point that sometimes we want to get rid of a particular sin primarily for selfish reasons. It makes us feel bad. We don't like being controlled by something. But we are perfectly happy to tolerate other sins in our lives – pride and selfishness and not reading the Scripture, not praying, etc. And Owen writes this: "Do you think God will ease you of that which perplexes you, that you may be at liberty to do that which no less grieves Him? No. God says, 'Here is one, yet if he could be rid of this lust I should never hear of him more; let him wrestle with this, or he is lost.' (Owen says) God's work consists in universal obedience-- (That is, a desire to obey God in every part of life, not merely one) to be free of the present trouble is their own only." In other words, some people may have the idea that they just want to get rid of one sin and they think God's going to help them do that, but then they're happy and content to live life for themselves. Owen said it's not going to happen like that. You better attack sin as a whole in your life and not be content with any of it.

#2 Don't forget that the battle is for a lifetime. You know, some guys think, some women think that they can get to a point in their lives when that's not going to be a temptation anymore. Get over that. Read Romans 7. Read the mature reflection of the apostle Paul in the second half of Romans 7 as he thinks about and talks about his own personal struggle with sin. Although he is a new creation in Christ, the flesh that is still with him, just like the flesh that is still with us, creates a constant raging battle. And that was twenty years at least, between twenty and thirty years when he wrote Romans, after his conversion. So get over the idea that you're going to get to a point where it's no longer a temptation. Now the power of the temptation can lessen as you say no to it over time and its influence in your life can lessen and you can certainly overcome the regular pattern of sin, but to get rid of the temptation is not promised by God. So get used to the idea of it being a battle in this life and look forward to the day when you see Jesus Christ. And when you see Him, John says "we will (what?) be like Him." That's what we long for.

#3 Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is not getting rid of a particular sin, whatever your particular sin might be. The ultimate goal we all pursue is a moral character that resembles the moral character of Jesus Christ. That's the goal. It's not merely refusing to commit certain external sins. It's not even merely refusing to commit certain sins of the heart like anger or lust. Lloyd-Jones says: "This is the point at which we often fail. We have only a negative conception of holiness and therefore we feel self-satisfied." What is the goal of holiness? Romans 8:29 "those whom God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to (what?) the image of His Son." That's the goal – not getting rid of some troubling sin, but becoming like Jesus Christ.

#4 And this is key: don't try to do this in your own strength. You know, as Christians, I think we're prone to think that we needed Christ to get into the kingdom, but now we're on our own. Just let me at it. I can handle it from here. In a sense, it's as if we no longer need Christ. Do you understand the truth is, that without Christ, we cannot grow in sanctification, we cannot put a single sin to death in our lives? In fact, any progress we make in putting off sin in our lives will be through applying what Jesus did at the cross and through His strength. Look at John 15. Our Lord makes this very point in unequivocal terms. John 15:1. He uses the analogy of Himself as a vine and, and those who profess faith in Him as branches. "I am the true vine, My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, (and He says) He takes away…" This is not a true believer. This is a person who appears to be in Christ, but in fact is not a true Christian. The reason we know that is we find these same people down in verse 6 being cut off and cast into the fire and are burned. That's a picture of eternal judgment. So here are people who profess Christ, but there's no fruit in their lives. There's no indication that they have any life flowing from Christ into them. "every branch (here are true Christians, every branch) that bears fruit, He prunes it (the, the Father prunes it) so that it may bear more fruit." Notice here that our fruit – that is, our righteous living, our righteous character – flows from Christ, the energy for that flows from the vine and it is encouraged and strengthened by the Father's pruning in our lives. Verse 4:

Abide in Me (keep that daily connection with Me), and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (you keep that daily connection and relationship with Me) I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, (now watch the end of verse 5) for apart from Me you can (what?) do nothing.

What's He talking about in context here? He's talking about the pruning of our lives to get rid of the sin that's in our lives and the bearing fruit, the righteous character. He's talking about mortification and sanctification and guess what? He says that isn't going to happen without Me. Apart from Me, this doesn't happen. I am the vine from which the energy and life-giving power to see this accomplished in your life flows. I am the source of this.

Isn't that what Ephesians 5 says? "Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her…" He sanctifies her. He sanctifies you. He sanctifies me. Even in the middle of our temptation, we need Jesus Christ. You remember the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 4

. . .we don't have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the moment of temptation, your best help is the One who's been tempted in all points like as you are, yet without sin. We must, in the same way, cultivate an attitude of dependence on the Spirit because only the Spirit can truly change us. You and I need to expend the maximum effort, but you can't change your heart and neither can I change my heart. That only happens - remember Romans 8:13 - "if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." As we expend the maximum effort, the Spirit of God does what you and I can never do. He changes us gradually at the heart level. You remember the passage we read this morning in Philippians 2? It says: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling..." That's what we're to do. That's pursuing obedience. That's trying to do what we've been commanded to do – depending on the Spirit's work. Then what happens? Well, the reason we have that desire, the reason we do that is "for He (that is, God) is at work in you, both to will and to work to His good pleasure." In other words, the Spirit of God is working inside of you as you pursue obedience to change your will, to change your desire, what you want, your affections, and to produce the actual work, the actual outflow of that will and decision. So you expend the effort - "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (and God produces the change) He is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

In the end, it drives us back to Christ, doesn't it, even our struggle with lust? Listen with me to 1 Corinthians 1:30: "by God's doing you are in Christ Jesus, (salvation is all of God from beginning to end, but notice what God has made Christ to us. We are in Christ and Christ has) become to us wisdom from God, (we learn all that we need to know about God and His wisdom from Christ) and righteousness (that's justification, we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. So our wisdom is Christ, our righteousness, our positional standing before God is Christ) and (watch this, our) sanctification (is Christ)..." He is the One through whom our growth in holiness comes. Listen. You never get beyond Jesus Christ. It's, as He said in John 15, when it comes to cutting off that in you which is wrong, when it comes to bearing fruit which is right: "Apart from Me you can do (what?) nothing." And that brings us right back to what our Lord did for us on the cross. Let's pray together.

As you prepare your heart for the Lord's Table, I'm going to ask the men to come. Whatever the sins in your life, whatever it is you struggle with, you need to confess to the Lord and seek His forgiveness because Paul said that the Lord's Table was only for Christians. If you're in Christ, if you've repented of your sins and believed in Jesus, it's for you, but he places one more caveat. He says you must be willing to deal with your sin because if you don't and you eat the Lord's Table and you drink the Lord's Table, you are eating and drinking God's judgment to yourself. So take a moment and truly prepare your heart and confess your sin.

Our Father, we thank You for the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ slain for us. We thank You that He poured out His life in violent death, the death of a perfect substitutionary sacrifice, so that we could go free – paying for the sins that we have confessed to you this morning, drinking the cup of Your wrath against every sin of every person who would ever believe. Father, we thank You and bless You for the sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Father, as we leave this place, remind us that Christ is everything to us - that by Your doing, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, we are in Christ Jesus. And now that we are in Christ Jesus, He has become to us redemption. He's bought us back from the slave market of sin. Thank You that He has become to us righteousness, that righteousness which comes to You as a gift to us, a right standing before You based on the life and death of Jesus Christ alone. But Father, thank You that day in and day out, any progress we make in the work of mortification and sanctification is ours because it flows to us from Christ and His work on our behalf. Father, may we evidence that work even this week by progress in putting to death by the Spirit the deeds of our fallenness. We pray it for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ and in His name. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount